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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (474 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Leo Tolstoy Narrator: George K. Wilson Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2009 ISBN: 9781400180776
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Hailed as one of the world’s supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying, Leo Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” is the story of a worldly careerist, a high court judge who has never given the inevitability of his death so much as a passing thought. But one day, death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise he is brought face to face with his own mortality. How, Tolstoy asks, does an unreflective man confront his one and only moment of truth?

This novella was the artistic culmination of a profound spiritual crisis in Tolstoy’s life, a nine-year period following the publication of Anna Karenina during which he wrote not a word of fiction. A thoroughly absorbing and, at times, terrifying glimpse into the abyss of death, it is also a strong testament to the possibility of finding spiritual salvation.

Also included in this volume are “The Forged Coupon,” “After the Dance,” “My Dream,” “There Are No Guilty People,” and “The Young Tsar.”

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The greatest of all novelists.”

    Virginia Woolf, praise for the author

  • “A serene god.”

    Marcel Proust, praise for the author

  • “A sublime artist.”

    Fyodor Dostoyevsky, praise for the author

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jonathan | 2/17/2014

    " Tolstoy wrote with deep psychological insight, detailed description, and wit. My favorite of these three shorts was, I think, The Cossacks. The ending was abrupt and twisted my gut. It was realistic, but he made it hurt. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Unbridled | 2/17/2014

    " In this slim collection of stories, we might learn that: (1) the only certain happiness in life is to live for others; (2) Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible; (3) foolishness comes from education; and (4) woman is an instrument of enjoyment - among many other things. Of the 4 stories, I found Master and Man to be the 'weakest,' but that's only because I found Tolstoy's genius so radiant in the other stories (Family Happiness, The Death of Ivan Ilych, The Kreutzer Sonata). These stories had a strange effect on me - even where I disagreed with Tolstoy completely, his genius delivered me to great things. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Adam Fleming | 2/3/2014

    " Stretching myself to read works of great writers I've never read before. Tolstoy is great for sure. The three works in this volume include Master and Man and The Kreutzer Sonata as well as the Death of Ivan Illych. Dark stuff, but a glimmer of hope for the afterlife too. Will I read more Tolstoy soon? Probably not. Looking forward to getting home where I have a stack of American writers waiting for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Henry | 2/3/2014

    " the death of ivan ilych is breathtakingly good, happy ever after is very good and the cossacks a step down "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robbi | 2/1/2014

    " Tolstoy was obsessed with the subject of death. This is an interesting, quick read about the reality of one's own death, and how others around the dying person handle it. Makes me appreciate the eternal perspective. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wendy | 1/27/2014

    " My favorites among these were "Prisoner of the Caucasus," "Master and Man" and "Alyosha the Pot." Tolstoy has an almost magical understanding on the processes of consciousness leading up to death. I found several of the stories profoundly depressing for their portrayal, of marital dynamics ("The Kreutzer Sonata," "The Death of Ivan Ilych"). Perhaps that is why it took me so long to finish the book! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Caitlin | 1/25/2014

    " This is not the copy I read. My copy included "Happy Ever After (Family Happiness)" and "The Cossacks." I loved "The Cossacks." I thought it painted a picture of the Caucausis mountains and the tensions there with what I can only hope is accuracy. "Death of Ivan" is a lovely sad story about how life can end before one expects it to and the havoc that can play on ones soul, and the truimphs that are offered spiritually. Tolstoy has a prejudiced, often unfair view of family life, especially against the wives. Tolstoy was a difficult man who sired 13 legitmate children and one known illegitmate one. But his desire to follow his own developed spiritual principles threatened to disenfranchise his children and his wife could not accept that. The tensions between them often demonized her and his works often show their struggles. But I love Tolstoy. I love his clear writing, his perfect descriptions that make his characters and their scenery vivid and he is just amazing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kirk | 1/12/2014

    " A most morbid tale, but for Tolstoy, a pretty quick read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cameron | 1/9/2014

    " Fantastic, highly recommended novella at the heart of an excellent collection of Tolstoy's shorter work. Great translation, too. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Luis Salas | 12/25/2013

    " Again, I love dark Russians. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Julia | 12/16/2013

    " late tolstoy is obsessed with sex, death and the question of the good life. the latter i found the best: that is, the death of ivan ilyich, master and man, the forged coupon. hadji murat is just a great story. translation is crunchy at times, but modern. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anne Fedarko | 12/4/2013

    " alright, i moved on to another book before beginning master and man, but the other stories were superb! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carol | 11/11/2013

    " Short read but very intense. What in life is important and can you find it before it's too late? Very well written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Frank | 11/8/2013

    " "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" was great; "The Kreutzer Sonata" unnerving and crazy; "Hadji Murat" sort of like War and Peace in miniature. I also read a couple of lovely shorter pieces from this volume: "Alyosha the Pot" and "After the Ball." I'll come back to other stories in this book later. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Banafsheh Serov | 8/13/2013

    " As much as I love Anna Karenina & War & Peace, I found these short stories disappointing. Having said that, The Prisoner Of Caucasus,The Forged Coupon & Hadji Murat were insightful and entertaining. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kat Sommers | 5/31/2013

    " Only read the Death of Ivan Ilyich out of this collection so far but bloody hell. It's good isn't it. If not unremittingly bleak. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kirsten | 3/24/2013

    " If you like Tolstoy these short stories are worth reading, most are pretty intense. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anouk | 1/17/2013

    " Excellent one from Leo Tolstoi! He can make a simple life of a simple man become something we can learn from. Whatever we try to achieve every day, and no matter how hard we make the efforts to reach them, things must come to an end. Someday, all you need is just those who love us back. Simple. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brian | 1/10/2013

    " quite a panoply of artistic talent. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandy K | 12/28/2010

    " I loved Happily Ever After and The Death of Ivan Ilyich, but after two short, intimate pieces The Cossacks kind of dragged and didn't really have the same impact. Was still very impressed with the first two stories though. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Edward Nudelman | 12/7/2010

    " This was is probably the most influential narrative I've ever read, shaping in me a desire to understand my finitude and grapple with such issue as temporality, meaning and the urge to survive in the face of hopelessness. If you haven't read it.... get it at once and read it. Twice. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rob | 12/29/2009

    " One can never go wrong with Tolstoy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Owen | 3/22/2008

    " My favorite book! Read so often in the last ten years the spine is duct-taped. I've never found a more complete compilation of Tolstoy's "folk tales" to replace it with. It was the best $3 I have ever spent! "

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About the Author
Author Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) was born about two hundred miles from Moscow. His mother died when he was two, his father when he was nine. His parents were of noble birth, and Tolstoy remained acutely aware of his aristocratic roots, even when he later embraced doctrines of equality and the brotherhood of man. After serving in the army in the Caucasus and Crimea, where he wrote his first stories, he traveled and studied educational theories. In 1862 he married Sophia Behrs and for the next fifteen years lived a tranquil, productive life, finishing War and Peace in 1869 and Anna Karenina in 1877. In 1879 he underwent a spiritual crisis; he sought to propagate his beliefs on faith, morality, and nonviolence, writing mostly parables, tracts, and morality plays. Tolstoy died of pneumonia in 1910 at the age of eighty-two.

About the Narrator

George K. Wilson is a working actor in stage, film, television, and commercials with almost one hundred audiobook narrations to his credit. He began in broadcast journalism with American Forces Radio and Television and is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He had a lead role in the cult film classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and appeared on television’s One Life to Live, Ryan’s Hope, and The Doctors and has been heard on voice-overs for The Guiding Light and The Cosby Show, as well as many television and radio commercials.